Vive la France!

On November 27, 1978, The Cars performed at the Theatre de l’Empire in Paris, France. At the time of this performance, their debut album had only been ‘out there’ for about 6 months. They were (relatively) young and hungry to make their mark, but polished and professional; they had been working the stage for years to get where they were. The show they played for a difficult audience in the UK was less than a week behind them, and one might expect that the band would be defensive, cautious, or exuding tension, but the very opposite attitudes were evident. The Cars were confident in their sound, their style, and in one another. They played with class and expertise and that incredible synergy that would continue to be their trademark through the years.

franceAs to the actual preservation of this event, my research so far has turned up only sketchy details. I believe the concert was aired on a French program called Chorus on December 3, 1978. This television series was hosted by Antoine de Caunes, and was evidently France’s version of rock music television, giving venue to many of the up-and-coming new wave and post-punk bands of the day.

The Cars played a total of seven songs: Good Times Roll, Bye Bye Love, My Best Friend’s Girl, Moving In Stereo, All Mixed Up, You’re All I’ve Got Tonight, and Just What I Needed.

Apparently in 2010 a 3-DVD boxed set of the show Chorus was released including footage of bands from 1978-1981, but according to the track listings, The Cars are not included in the set. Rumor has it that when the socialist government took over in 1981 de Caunes arrived in his office one day only to realize his whole collection of complete, unedited gigs on Beta tapes that had been in his office had been thrown out. If that’s true, there may not be an official recording of The Cars’ entire show left.

A scouring of the website (France’s official audiovisual archives) yields little additional information but a smidge of hope… There is a short ‘teaser’ segment video, about 1 minute long, that allows us to see the beginning of the concert (a portion of “Good Times Roll”). The website also offers a video available for download for about $2, but from the description it seems that it is only the first three songs of the concert, and appears to be about 12 minutes long. I’m having a time trying to translate the French and navigate the website to purchase this but I’m not sure if they sell to the United States. I have sent a message to their staff; hopefully I can get my hands on it.

There are also four ‘audio only’ fan videos from the show on youtube: “Moving In Stereo”, “All Mixed Up”, “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” and “Just What I Needed.” A quick search of ‘the cars france audio’ will pull them up for you. The sound quality is a little muffled but worth hearing, and the videos are hugely appealing, visually.

In the meantime, there is currently ONE youtube video segment** of them on the stage in France: the footage of them playing “Bye Bye Love.” And oh, what yummy footage it is!

The stage is wide and spacious, the atmosphere is reserved, and the lfrance4ighting is soft and clear. The boys are all dressed up in classy rock-and-roll attire. The audio starts out a little muted but you can tell the band is perfectly tuned in to each other and ready to rock. After the initial camera work barely catches the epic bass riff at the beginning, the second cameraman is generous with his profile shot of Benjamin singing through the first verse and bridge before retreating to take in the whole front lineup of the band during the chorus.

The real visual triumph here starts during the second verse, when the production team has the presence of mind (and the space!) to scootch around the left side of the stage and around to the back, where we are given the rare treat of getting to see David in action with his drums. I love this! I always wish we had more footage of him doing his thing. (Side note: this clip inspired my 10yo’s nickname for David: he calls him ‘Baby Clothes.’ Hahaha!)

Not only do we get to enjoy David’s talents, but almost immediately afterward we’re able to watch Greg banging out his synth solo in its entirety, with a nice slow pan of the camera and great lighting. I get such a kick out of watching him work those keys; he’s such an incredible musician!

The camera work kind of falls apart a bit after that… There’s some nice close-up attention on Benjamin again but when it comes time for Elliot’s solo, which we can clearly see he is ready to absolutely burn the place down with, the cameraman is instead focusing on Ric, who manages a smile before he seems to realize he’s not the one who should be in the spotlight at the moment. Benjamin brings the show back around, though, when he zeroes in on Elliot for their traditional “Bye Bye Love” connection. Incredible way to end the song!

Some mini-delights of the video that you may or may not have noticed on your own…

  1. I’d bet a case of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups that Greg is wearing Benjamin’s tie from the Rock Goes to College concert. I am *so* adding that to my ‘twinsies’ article.
  2. Looks like you can see the guys’ set lists on stage: one on the floor by Benjamin’s effect pedals, one on the amp stack behind Elliot, one on Ric’s side of the drum riser, and one taped to the top left of Greg’s keyboards. Kind of cool.
  3. I love that Benjamin is wearing a little black Cars pin on the left side of his vest (the same vest from RGTC, by the way (thanks for noticing, Jen!)). I wish I could see clearly the pin on his right. I noticed that Elliot is wearing two very similar pins to Benjamin’s on his shirt… another ‘twinsies’ moment? If only I knew.

WARNING: It’s all about the Benj from here on out! LOL

I know that the lyrics “electric angel rock and roller” might very well refer to Maxanne Sartori (the Boston DJ who helped launch The Cars), but to me those words will always call up the image of Benjamin in this performance. Dressed in black from head to toe (with the exception of that sexy burgundy choker); his blonde hair perfectly styled and shining; that gorgeous red Vox hanging off his manly frame, and that face that I can never resist, he is the epitome of the beautiful rock star. Sheer perfection.

I will let you find your own delicious moments to squeal over in this video — there are plenty! —  but I can’t resist pointing out a few of my favorites. As always, the energy between Benjamin and Elliot sparks from the beginning and includes that adorable smile exchange at 2:02 and their intense (but slightly out of focus) ending. When he’s not rocking it up with EE, Benjamin is making me crazy with his sensual facial expressions. Catch him at 2:41, the unmistakable appeal of 2:56, and the ‘hard to get’ attitude at 3:05. And that mouth at 3:12! Okay, okay, I’ll stop now.

Watch it for yourself and tell me your thoughts.


**UPDATE 7/13/16: Buntastic uploaded the 3-song set from to youtube!!! Wahoo!



28 thoughts on “Vive la France!

  1. There’s the same video, but with singe special effects editing & audio enhancement, posted by a Ramos. I want to say JR Ramos, and I gotta say I like the one better because I can actually hear guys voice versus the studio dubbed & polished one used on the Ramos posting. Also, you don’t get to see as much of Greg’s expertise & skill because that’s where one of the video special effects is.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice analysis, Donna. I like the joke that their first album should have been called “The Cars Greatest Hits”, because they’re the songs most immortalized and remembered. I’m more into Candy-O and afterwards. I would love to see a whole concert from the Panorama or Shake It Up tours! What I have seen looks fantastic.
    In this case, I think Benjamin’s mic should be turned up a notch.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You don’t ever have to stop talking about the wonderful things you see Benjamin doing as he sings and all his beautiful mannerisms. I love to read every word cause if I happened not to catch it, i know you did. It’s so awesome to me that someone else see’s all those little details of him that i do, even the slightest ones. i send my fav videos of Ben to my best friend telling her to watch at different times in the video to see the cutest or hottest things he does. She says, all those little things he does affect you that much? I tell her, you have no idea!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. No other mortal will ever be seared into our collective memories like Benjamin Orr. Just looking at him, watching him, listening to him sing. Can you even imagine what it would have been like to have been intimate with him? Well, yes we ALL can imagine that!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. How I wish I could see them live in a small venue like this, all of them at the top of their game musically (and visually). Your set list detail transported me back to when I used to go to local clubs to see live bands and it was a thrill to get up close and maybe grab a set list as a souvenir.

    About the “electric angel rock and roller”–I think Ric was inspired a lot by Ben. For example, this line, the ones about blue eyes, the stuff about zooming around in night life (I think Ric has mentioned following Ben around after gigs). In my imagination, Ben was a bit of a muse for Ric–the happy-go-lucky, magnetic, guy’s guy to Ric’s cerebral, quirky, basement songwriter. I hope Ric one day writes his memoirs and delves into his relationship with Ben beyond the obvious “he was a phenomenal singer.”

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Everything you pointed out is what gets us all. If I may add.
    0:34-0:40 and then he sings “..wavy midnight slip into insane..”
    And after 2?41 how his voice goes deep for a second on “..eyes of porcelain and of blue..”

    Ben being Ric’s muse – I bet that happened on occasion and I am beginning to suspect Ben is referenced quite often in a line here and there, as dedication, and as an inside joke.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Awesome write up my MISBFF! I love everything about this show!!

    Someone asked if that was a “spoon” in EE’s shirt (from the UTube comments).
    …hummm kinda looks like one. Wouldn’t surprise me if he lost his tie just as they are due to go on stage, and then Ben tossing it to him. LOL.
    So ya, what’s the story there?

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Donna, I can’t believe I have just noticed this page and the previous – you are wonderful, truly, I love your passion and must say I share it. These pages are almost 4 years old and of course close to 20 years since the beautiful one left us, but I hope your passion for your subject is still as intense – I’m sure it is. All I can add is keep up the wonderful ‘work’. Best wishes. Patricia

    Liked by 1 person

  9. SPJ, ❤️ Your descriptions on 💕“the Benj” 💕very accurate. I am also going to the looking up all those timestamps as I always do when people point them out-I love that! People, keep doing that!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I was thinking too for a while now, since Greg has Ben’s tie on here, as short as Ben’s shirt sleeves are in the Rock Goes To College, I think Ben has Greg’s shirt on in that one LOL….Has anyone ever mentioned that idea before? Thank You Donna, You’re The BEST!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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